Mycotoxin Concerns when Feeding Small Ruminants

Michael Neary, Extension Small Ruminant Specialist, Purdue University
(Previously Published as a Sheep and Meat Goat Extension Publication)

Identifying Corn Ear Rots (Image Source: No-Till Farmer)

Introduction
During the 2009 Indiana corn harvest, livestock producers heard numerous reports of mycotoxin levels high enough to cause concern. The main mycotoxins in feed grains that sheep and meat goat producers need to be concerned with are deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN). Deoxynivalenol is also known as vomitoxin. Zearalenone arises from Gibberrella ear rot, or Gib ear rot. Both of these mycotoxins are produced by a Fusarium fungus. There is a limited amount of research and extension information available on the effect of sheep performance when consuming feeds infected with DON and ZEN. There is less information for Continue reading

Top 7 Factors for Quality Hay

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 26, 2018)

One of the many things that David Letterman gets remembered for is his Top 10 lists.

These lists included such things as the Top 10 Signs Your Kid Had a Bad First Day at School, the Top 10 Numbers Between One and 10, and the Top 10 Dog Excuses for Losing the Dog Show (No. 3 – Didn’t know that was the judge’s leg).

Lists, especially those that are ranked, are great for generating a plethora of discussion and arguments — just ask two passionate baseball fans to list the top 10 players during the past 50 years. It’s likely both will end their day in an emergency room.

Agree or not, lists do invoke thought and reflection.

With that in mind, here’s Dennis Hancock’s “Top 7 Factors that Affect Hay Forage Quality.” The University of Georgia Extension forage specialist enumerated the list during a recent Alabama Forage Focus webinar. The factors are listed in order of perceived importance. Continue reading

Ag-note: Why Ewe Should Control Feed Intake

Carolina Fernandez, Dermot Hutchinson, Randi Shaw, Jake Parkinson, Caitlyn McCaulley, OSU Animal Science Undergraduate Students
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Why Ewe Should Control Feed Intake
** Follow the link above to view the Ag-note.

This weeks Ag-note comes from OSU students Carolina Fernandez, Dermot Hutchinson, Randi Shaw, Jake Parkinson, and Caitlyn McCaulley as they present a detailed overview on the importance of controlled feed intake in small ruminants. The students were inspired by Dr. Francis Fluharty to present on this topic as Dr. Fluharty expressed that this type of feeding strategy is not just limited to feedlot cattle. Although controlling feed intake comes with a cost due to an increase in labor and time spent feeding, the benefits from this strategy certainly outweigh these costs.

At a basic level, producers have two options when it comes to feeding strategies, Continue reading

Energy Intake and Protein Concentration Effects Lamb Performance and Visceral Organ Mass

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As summer approaches, I can’t help but to think about the upcoming breeding sheep show season, when will Mother Nature let us to make our first cutting of hay in southeastern Ohio, and the number of lambs that are on feed in the state of Ohio. For those producers that are feeding out lambs, I have a few management questions to ask. Currently, how are you feeding your lambs? Are your lamb’s offered ad libitum access to feed all day or are you feeding your group of lambs at a specific rate (i.e. percent of body weight)? When formulating your rations, how are you determining the percent protein needed in your lamb diets? Are you feeding Continue reading

The Effects of Finishing Diet and Weight on Lamb Performance, Carcass Characteristics, and Flavor

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The beauty of the small ruminant industry is that producers are able to capitalize on niche markets that surround religious holidays. Unfortunately, it is clear that the price of lambs at the sale barn has dropped as seen in recent market reports, with the conclusion of Christian and Orthodox Easter’s as well as Passover. Checking the calendar, it appears that we are approaching both Ramadan (month of fasting beginning May 6) and Eid al-Fitr (June 5-7). The occurrence of these religious holidays may allow for the lamb market to see an increase in market prices, but many fall and winter born lambs in the eastern US will also be entering the market as they approach finishing weights and in turn may flood the market. Therefore, as a producer, it is important to have a marketing plan in mind when making breeding decisions for proper lambing dates.

Aside from religious holidays, lamb Continue reading

With Sheep, The Cheapest Mineral Isn’t

Dr. Francis Fluharty, Research Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

Regardless of the animals stage of production or time of year, Dr. Fluharty reminds us that mineral supplementation is important! Although mineral

(Image Source: Back Yard Herds)

can be quite costly initially, Dr. Fluharty outlines the risks and production losses associated with the lack of mineral supplementation.

The major nutritional requirements are: water, energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In many cases, sheep producers do a good job of providing adequate water, energy, and protein. However, many sheep producers buy ‘cheap’ minerals, ignoring the fact that the availability of the minerals in the oxide form is low. In many of these mixes, only 10-20% are Continue reading

How Often Should You Cut Alfalfa?

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University

Most dairy producers are fairly aggressive with alfalfa cutting schedules. Their goal is to achieve high-quality forage.

But cutting too frequently usually shortens the life of alfalfa and often gives lower yields, even when more cuttings are taken per growing season.

Recent results from a two-year study at the Western Agricultural Research Center of The Ohio State University demonstrate the yield and quality trade-off. Continue reading

Management Practices that can Affect the Flavor Intensity of Lamb

Jerad Jaborek, Graduate Research Associate, The Ohio State University

Now is the time of year when the majority of winter lambs are being weaned. After weaning, these lambs will be sold at the sale barn

or retained on the farm to be placed on feed to reach market ready weights. Have you ever considered that the way we manage these lambs will affect the flavor intensity of the sheep meat produced from these lambs?

According to 2015 National Lamb Quality Audit, which conducted surveys with people working in the lamb supply chain (retailers, food service, and purveyors) to rank the importance of quality attributes. Eating satisfaction was the most important attribute to survey participants and was commonly defined as the Continue reading

Turning the Forage World Upside Down – Condensed Tannins and Small Ruminants

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: March 20, 2018)

Well, someday it will.

(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)

In the February issue of Hay & Forage Grower, I shared a story about Reed Edwards, a South Carolina farmer who had been growing sericea lespedeza hay for about 10 years.

Edwards sold his hay about as fast as he could make it, mostly to customers with Boar show goats or dairy goats.

Why goats? Continue reading

Pasture: Evaluation and Management of Existing Pasture

Bob Hendershot, Retired State Grassland Conservationist

As we begin to move into spring, we need to start thinking about spring forage growth and how we will be managing our pastures over the course of the new year.

Pasture management is very important for grazing animals; cattle, horse, llama, and sheep owners. By managing pastures more effectively, land managers can increase forage production, lower production costs, improve aesthetics, and promote a healthier environment. The benefits of a well-managed pasture include reducing environmental impacts of your operation, including movement of soil and manure to water bodies; improving property aesthetics, which makes for good neighbor relations, and increases property value; and providing feed and recreation for your horses. Using a rotational grazing system can enhance these benefits.

For optimal health, horses and llamas need to eat 1 to 1.5% and cattle and sheep Continue reading

Hypothermic Lambs: How to Defrost before They’re in the Freezer

Jackie Lee and Kathrine Yunker, 2019 College of Veterinary Medicine DVM Candidates, The Ohio State University
(previously published on Talking Sheep – Sheep Education and Information: February 19, 2018)

Although mother nature can not make up her mind when it comes to the weather, this piece of information still serves a great purpose as it reminds us about the issues that can arise as a result of hypothermia and hypoglycemia as well as the management practices that can be implemented in order to decrease the losses associated with both of these issues.

Winter has already been harsh this year, making it only fitting to write about hypothermia in lambs. Even with the best management, this is bound to be an issue for many sheep producers. Hypothermia has many causes and can affect lambs at different ages. In newborn lambs less than five hours old, hypothermia often occurs due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.

Difficult or premature births can Continue reading

Livestock Water is Essential, Even in Winter

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Perry County

(Image Source: Catskill Merino Sheep)

Water is essential for all livestock regardless of the time of year. So far this year we have certainly had our share of chopping ice, thawing water lines and troughs. With recent temperatures many of us often focus on keeping livestock well fed and with adequate shelter. However, often times we forget about the most important nutrient which is water. Water consumed by livestock is required for a variety of physiological functions. Some of these include proper digestion, nutrient transportation, enzymatic and chemical reactions, and regulation of body temperature.

Although water is the cheapest nutrient we may purchase or provide, it is the one we provide the most of on a per pound basis. For example, every pound of dry matter consumed, Continue reading

Graze on Cool-Season Annuals – Thoughts for your 2018 Grazing Year

Curt Arens, Farm Progress field editor
(previously published in Nebraska Farmer: February 7, 2018)

Oats, barley, triticale, and spring wheat all make for good grazing and hay crops when they are spring-seeded.

For a seed cost of between $25 and $31 per acre, livestock producers can gain valuable grazing days or hay by planting cool-season annuals in the spring or fall. All kinds of annuals can be planted in the spring, according to Nebraska Extension educator emeritus, Dennis Bauer.

Speaking at a Beef Profit Tips meeting in Center, Neb., recently, Bauer said oats, spring triticale, spring beardless barley, Italian or annual ryegrass, field peas, and other legumes all make good grazing or hay options.

Continue reading

Management Considerations to Lower Lamb Mortalities

Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Veterinarian

Once again, we have dug back into the achieves to provide an article by Dr. Bill Shulaw that outlines management strategies that can be implemented in order to decrease lamb losses associated with improper management and disease control that may be prevalent during the first few weeks of life. Whether you have raised sheep for a year or 50 years, reviewing this article would benefit all shepherds as it outlines simple control and management strategies that can certainly benefit any operation.

There are many factors that affect lamb survival. Serious shepherds should consult the Sheep Production Handbook, produced by the American Sheep Industry Association (www.sheepusa.org), for a more complete discussion of the various conditions and infectious diseases which impact lamb survival. However, Continue reading

Do Sheep and Goats get Cold?

Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Jefferson and Harrison Counties

(Image Source: Our Ohio Magazine, Ohio Farm Bureau – Meating of the Minds)

During this time of year, the hills of eastern Ohio are covered in snow, frozen waterfalls, and massive icicles. Most of us enjoy spending these cold winter days indoors next to the fireplace or with the furnace working overtime. So with their thick wool coats, are sheep actually keeping as warm as you think? What about goats that do not have those nice thick coats? Are they just used to the cold? During the winter, extreme temperatures, precipitation and wind can create Continue reading

How can Delayed Weaning Benefit your Operation?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

At what age do you wean your lambs? This is a question that I have asked producers many times. I have heard ages ranging from 35-130 days of age with the most common answer being 60 days of age. This is the most common weaning age for producers in the eastern United States. When I ask producers why they wean their lambs at 60 days of age or younger, most respond with “that’s the way we have always done it here on the farm, so why change now?”

From a researcher’s perspective, this is not a valid answer. Weaning before the natural weaning age (between 100-180 days of age depending upon sheep breed) is stressful. Weaning stress can lead to decreases in animal performance as demonstrated by decreased weight gain. Weaning stress can also result in decreased animal health as shown by decreases in immune system function that can lead to an increased susceptibility to disease and infection. However, if we were Continue reading

What Accounts for Variability in Grain Protein Levels in Corn?

Alexander Lindsey, OSU Assistant Professor, Horticulture and Crop Science
Stan Smith, OSU Extension Program Assistant, Fairfield County
Peter Thomison, OSU Extension, Corn Specialist
(previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2018-01)

(Image Source: C.O.R.N. Newsletter)

We’ve recently heard comments and questions concerning the varying levels of grain protein levels being found in shelled corn. Some feed companies have reported seeing many samples in the upper 6% and lower 7% protein range this year but there are reports of levels that are nearly 9%. Some feed mill operations are using 7% as the default value based on this year and last year’s levels. However, in the past, higher grain protein levels (% +2) have been cited for corn. Are the reports of low levels in 2016 and 2017 an anomaly? What could be accounting for these varying protein levels in corn?

Environmental conditions (esp. those affecting soil moisture), cultural practices (nitrogen fertilization, plant population, drainage) and hybrids genetics all influence grain protein. Production factors and favorable growing conditions that Continue reading

Hay Testing for Efficient Winter Feeding

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator, Noble County

As the new year begins, most Ohio graziers are probably feeding a good portion of hay as a part of their animals’ daily ration. Even if there is a supply of stockpiled forage available, we tend to make hay available just in case they need a little extra. It is likely that grain is also part of that daily ration. Well, how do you know how much hay, grain, and pasture they need? No one wants to leave their animals hungry. In addition, we do not want to waste time or money with unnecessary feeding. Figuring out the balance can seem like a guessing game, but the place to start is with a hay test.

Testing the hay you are feeding is well worth the price of sample analysis. Collecting a sample is not complicated and typically, results are available Continue reading

How do Finishing Diet Combinations Affect Lamb Performance and Tissue Growth?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For those shepherds in the state of Ohio that retain their lambs and finish to a market weight, a high concentrate finishing diet is commonly used. High concentrate diets are favored by producers as these types of diets allow producers to raise their lambs indoors away from predators, at a low cost when grain prices are low, and allow their lambs to reach a market ready weight at an earlier time point when compared to forage fed lambs. However, in today’s market, the production of grass-fed meat products receives a premium. Therefore, in order to capitalize on these premiums, some producers may choose to produce grass fed or pasture raised lamb.

When switching to alternative backgrounding and finishing diets, it is important to understand Continue reading

We’re Pricing Hay all Wrong

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously featured in Hay & Forage Grower: December 12, 2017)

(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)

“We need to think about alfalfa as a package of nutrients,” said Bill Weiss, Ohio State University Extension dairy nutritionist. “As such, the value of that alfalfa (or any forage) should reflect the value of the nutrients provided.”

Perhaps most buyers and sellers of hay already think this is being done, but Weiss takes it to another level. He shared his thoughts on valuing hay at the Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium’s Hay Quality Workshop held in Reno, Nev. Continue reading

New Study: Don’t Graze Fescue to the Ground

Lauren Peterson, Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern
(Previously featured in Hay & Forage Grower: December 5, 2017)

The verdict is in. Grazing toxic fescue to the ground is dangerous to pastured livestock. Findings released by the University of Missouri indicate that the highest levels of toxic alkaloids are held in the bottom 2 inches of infected grass.

Sarah Kenyon, an MU extension agronomist based in West Plains, Mo., documented these findings in her Ph.D. dissertation.

Kentucky 31 fescue, the most-used grass in Continue reading

Grazing Wind Damaged Corn Residue

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Southeast Regional Director

Although this information has been posted in the past, as harvest has come and gone, this opportunity may serve as a viable option for those looking for a cheap feed source to graze the mature ewe flock on. This strategy allows farmers to optimize on losses associated with harvest as well as serve as a means to save on winter feedings.

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing Continue reading

What Finishing Diet Should I Feed my Lambs?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Do lambs perform and hang better carcasses when grazed on grasses, legumes, or fed an all concentrate diet?

Before to asking these questions, producers must first determine the goal of their operation. Resources such as land, labor, time, and money all play a critical role in the daily management of an operation. In today’s society, there are two types of consumers. Those that want access to quality protein sources at low prices, and those that are willing to pay a premium for specialty products (i.e. grass-fed lamb). When grain prices are low, it may be more economical for producers to finish lambs on grain. However, in order to reach a premium through specialty markets, producers may choose to finish their lambs on pasture. Regardless of which finishing strategy is chosen, producers need to understand both Continue reading

Don’t Guess, Forage Test!

Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Sandusky County
(originally published in the Ohio Cattleman, late fall 2017 issue)

Regardless of livestock species, it is important to test your forages. When in doubt, test them out!

Across most of Ohio, 2017 has been a challenging crop year, especially for those in the hay production business. In 2016, while most producers did not have significant yields, quality was tremendous due to the dry weather which allowed for highly manageable cutting intervals and easy dry down. Since the end of June, however, 2017 has been just the opposite, with mother nature forcing many bales to be made at higher than optimal moisture levels, and cutting intervals measured in months rather than days.

With adequate moisture throughout most of the state for much of the summer, this equates to substantial yields, which in turn for the beef producer, means hay is readily available at reasonable prices. However, for the astute cattleman that either makes his/her own hay or knows the nature of the business, this also means high quality hay may just be the proverbial needle in the haystack, and for the most part, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.

While there are many options to manage the situation, including Continue reading

Winter Feeding Systems, Which is the Best for You?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The effects of winter feeding systems in gestating sheep on ewe and lamb pre-weaning performance.

As the breeding season comes to an end and winter approaches, it is important to consider how pregnant ewes will be managed as lambing season approaches.

There are several options available to producers for winter feeding strategies such as stockpiling forages on pasture, stored hay, grains, and recently the use of byproducts. Winter feeding can be a challenge as providing enough energy to meet the maintenance requirement of the gestating ewe and growth of the fetus becomes difficult.

Image Source: University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Department of Animal Sciences

In order to determine the effects of Continue reading

Fall and Winter Grazing Strategies

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Southeast Regional Director

In Ohio it is possible to graze year round. Of course grazing in winter does take planning. Summer is the best time to plan for fall and winter grazing. Why? Because many of our options have tasks associated with them in summer. By planning ahead it is possible in Ohio to have adequate quality, grazable forage for most of the winter. Depending on the class of livestock and their stage of production it is possible to need to feed for weeks in winter as opposed to months.

The cheapest option for fall grazing is Continue reading

How Does Harvest Weight and Diet Affect Carcass Characteristics?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The most common method for finishing lambs in the United States is the use of a high concentrate diet. Although high concentrate diets allow for lambs to be finished at a younger age, one down fall of this feeding strategy is that lambs may to accumulate an excessive amount of carcass fat. An alternative method to finish lambs would be the use of pasture. Forage fed lambs develop less carcass fat, but require a longer period of time to finish and are harvested at an older age when compared to concentrate fed lambs. In order to determine which feeding strategy will yield the greatest amount of marketable product, a comparison of light and heavy weight lambs on two different diets has been summarized.

In order to make this comparison, lambs were harvested Continue reading

What Benefits are Gained by Processing Grain Fed to Sheep?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

How does corn processing and fiber source affect feedlot lamb performance, diet digestibility, nitrogen metabolism?

(Image source: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)

Behaviorally, sheep and cattle are very different, especially in the way they eat. Sheep are more selective in their eating pattern and spend more time physically chewing and breaking down their feed than cattle do.

Regardless of the animal we are feeding, it is common practice in the livestock feed industry to process the grains fed to our animals. An issue with feeding processed grain is that due to an increase in surface area, the starches in grain become more readily available for the animal to digest. As a result, an increase in digestion may lead to metabolic issues such as acidosis in our ruminant species.

Therefore, a question of interest that arises is can sheep be fed unprocessed grains without Continue reading

The Future of Finishing Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Can the implementation of growth promotants or forage grazed finishing diets increase lean muscle gain in lambs without increasing carcass fat?

Marketing lambs at a high lean to fat carcass ratio is important in producing consistent and quality retail lamb products.

Lambs fed high concentrate diets finish at a younger age when compared to forage fed lambs. However, lambs fed high concentrate diets accumulate more carcass fat than lambs on grazed forage diets. The use of either growth promotants or forage finishing diets may provide producers with Continue reading

Grazing Corn Residue

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Morrow County

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, Continue reading

Spring Pasture Management

Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Educator, Monroe County

The time of year is quickly approaching when keeping pasture plants in a vegetative state is probably the hardest for forage producers. Managing pasture growth early in the growing season is important to maintain high quality and high quantity forage production throughout the spring, summer and fall. A “spring flush” occurs Continue reading

Management Considerations to Lower Lamb Mortalities

Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Veterinarian

There are many factors that affect lamb survival. Serious shepherds should consult the Sheep Production Handbook, produced by the American Sheep Industry Association (www.sheepusa.org), for a more complete discussion of the various conditions and infectious diseases which impact lamb survival. However, if a pregnancy is carried to term, most losses occur Continue reading

Fall Grazing Management and Plant Health

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Athens County

The experienced grazier knows that how grass pastures are managed in the fall of the year determines what they have to manage in the spring of the year. While we tend to think of fall as bringing an end to pasture growth, it turns out that this is a critical time for the grass plant.

In fact, for our perennial grass plants, fall is not so much an end as it is a beginning, or at least laying a foundation for a beginning. Although seed production is one way Continue reading

More Tips for a Successful Fall Grazing Plan

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Knox County

Fall is an excellent time to complete several pasture related tasks. There are activities a livestock producer should be doing to help the pastures survive winter and remain productive next year.

The first and most important activity is good grazing management. Specifically, keep animals from overgrazing. Overgrazing in the fall could ruin next years forage production. It is more critical now than any other time of the year. Overgrazing is not caused by having too many animals in a field. It occurs Continue reading

Grazing Wind Damaged Corn Residue

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Morrow County

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing Continue reading

Sudangrass, Could it Work for You?

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Athens County

Raising sheep within a pasture based production system presents the manager with two challenges; internal parasite control and summer slump production of cool season pastures.  The use of a warm season annual like sudangrass may offer the pasture based sheep producer a parasite control option while at the same time filling in the forage production slump demonstrated by cool season pastures during the hot summer months.  In this article, I’ll draw on some of the results and lessons learned using sudangrass during the summer of 2007 on the Curt Cline farm in Athens County. Continue reading